Style has always been driven by youth culture, and it’s always been defined by free expression. That might sound somewhat contradictory, as we don’t often view today’s youth as particularly driven, and we don’t really see free expression as something that can be defined. But honestly, that’s kind of the point. Style isn’t about working hard or fulfilling some quota. It’s about remaining effortless, it’s about being true to yourself, it’s about forming an aesthetic that makes a statement without really saying anything. It’s ethereal and it’s aloof and it’s something that absolutely everyone is dying to capture and recreate.
Which brings us to the ubiquitous and beautiful enamel pin. As a fashion item, pins are having a moment. They are absurdly, almost comically popular, the pure embodiment of street style, and arguably more important to fashion than the clothing they’re pinned to. Why? Because they’re an easy way for young artists to proliferate their work. They are to this generation what stickers were to the ’90s kids.
“[Enamel] pins are an example of how the internet has empowered us to take charge of our creativity and make the things we want to see in the world,” explained Eduardo Morales, the man behind the mega-popular Pinlord site and Instagram account. “No longer do we have to accept and conform with what a fashion brand thinks is cool.”
Made from cost-effective materials, enamel pins are cheap and quick to produce (especially for artists and creators savvy enough to order in large quantities). “Apart from giving people a fun accessory to pin on their jackets or backpacks, which is just plain fun, I think the deeper impact on fashion has come from the fact that enamel pins have made it accessible for anyone to start small fashion-related business for less than $200 bucks,” said Morales.
While not a new invention, the 1-2 punch of enamel pins and social media has offered artists and designers an exciting-if-not-tiny medium for their work. With a generally high rate of profit, enamel pins are also a smart source of income for any artist. But most importantly, pins offer the wearer a chance to add a touch of low-effort style to an ensemble. “Flair,” as they might say on Office Space. With an endless array of options, and a low barrier to entry (most enamel pins cost between $10 and $15), it’s no mystery why street style has embraced the enamel pin with open arms — and lapels.
When done well, an enamel pin is an affordable piece of art that you can wear everywhere you go. Very few items in fashion have that kind of versatility.